Fun Minke Whale Facts For Kids

Christian Mba
Oct 28, 2022 By Christian Mba
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Fact-checked by Deeti Gupta
Some minke whale facts like they are called stinky minkies are funny.

The minke whale is among the species of baleen whales. It is considered to be the smallest and among the most prevalent among the world's rorquals.

There are two species of minke whale: the northern or common minke whale and the southern or Antarctic minke whale. The scientific name of the northern minke whale is Balaenoptera acutorostrata while that of the Antarctic minke whale is balaenoptera bonaerensis. The species was first described in 1780 by Danish naturalist, Otto Fabricius.

A juvenile specimen was then described in 1804 by Bernard Germain de Lacépède. The name was possibly inspired by the Norwegian whaler, Meincke, who mistook the common minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) to be a blue whale.

Minke whales have a sleek body that is black, dark gray, or dark brown. Their size, colors, and patterns differ based on the subspecies and the geographical location in which they are found.

They usually occupy temperate, boreal waters, tropical, subtropical areas and have a wide distribution across geographical locations such as Alaska, Pacific Islands, New England/Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and West Coast.

The IUCN Red List has given the common minke whale the status of Least Concern while the Antarctic minke whale is labelled as a Near Threatened species of baleen whale.

Read on to learn more interesting facts about minke whales. For more animal facts, check out our articles on the sperm whale and the blue whale.

Minke Whale Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a minke whale?

The minke whale is the smallest baleen whale species with two species of minkes in existence today: the common or northern minke whale and the Antarctic or southern minke whale.

What class of animal does a minke whale belong to?

Minke whales belong to the Mammalia class of the animal kingdom. This whale species belongs to the Balaenopteridae family and the Balaenoptera genus. The scientific name for northern hemisphere minke whales is Balaenoptera acutorostrata while the Antarctic minke whale has the scientific name, Balaenoptera bonaerensis.  

How many minke whales are there in the world?

Minke whale populations are not considered to be at risk. Minke whales are considered to be secure on the global range. It is estimated at there are more than 180,000 common minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) in the North Atlantic. The population of Antarctic minke whales is estimated to be 515,000 minkes according to the International Whaling Commission.

Where does a minke whale live?

Minke whales can be found in temperate, tropical, or polar waters of the sea. While northern minke whales are found in the north Atlantic and north Pacific oceans, distributed widely in the northern hemisphere, Antarctic minke whales are found in the southern hemisphere.

Dwarf minke whales, an unnamed subspecies of common minkes live in the temperate, tropical and polar waters of the South Atlantic and Pacific ocean as well as the Indian Ocean.

What is a minke whale's habitat?

Minke whales can be found in polar waters. While northern minke whales are found in the north Atlantic and north Pacific oceans, distributed widely in the northern hemisphere, Antarctic minke whales are found in the southern hemisphere.

Two subspecies of minke whales are found in the northern hemisphere: the Balaenoptera acutorostrata scammoni in the north Pacific and the Balaenoptera acutorostrata acutorostrata in the north Atlantic. During spring, these marine mammals migrate towards the poles and they head for the tropics in fall and winter.

Who do minke whales live with?

Minke whales are fairly solitary marine mammals, although they do sometimes travel in pairs or groups of three.

How long does a minke whale live?

While minke whales can usually live up to anywhere between 30-50 years, some have been known to live for up to 60 years.

How do they reproduce?

Minke whales reach sexual maturity by the time they are 3-8 years old and about 23 feet in size. Mating takes place in the winter.

This baleen whale species has a gestation period of 10-11 months. After the gestation period, females give birth to one whale calf (8-11.5 feet long, weighing 700 - 1,000 pounds).

The weaning period of a whale calf is after 4-6 months. It is common to spot mother, calf pairs of minke whales in lower latitudes of wintering grounds, but these sightings are less common towards the poles in the summer feeding grounds.

What is their conservation status?

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, the common minke whale balaenoptera acutorostrata has the conservation status of Least Concern while Antarctic minke whales are Near Threatened. While the minke whale (endangered) may not be a concern right now, their population is threatened by several human activities.

Whaling, especially in Greenland, Norway, and Japan has threatened this species. Minke whale hunting is typically done for food or to use these animals in scientific research. Their meat is served especially in Icelandic restaurants to tourists who believe that this is tradition.

Their meat is not like that of other fish. They taste more like a version of beef or venison.

Minke whales also get entangled in fishing gear as by-catch due to commercial fishing activities. Underwater anthropogenic noises also interfere with the low frequency minke whale sounds that these mammals use to locate prey or communicate with other members of their species.

Vessel strikes resulting from increased ship traffic can also injure the minke whale skull and other body parts or even kill minkes at sea.

These animals are protected in the United States by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.          

Minke Whale Fun Facts

What do minke whale look like?

Minke whales are the smallest of baleen whales.

Minke whales have small bodies that may be black, dark gray, or dark brown. They have two flippers with a pale chevron at the back and a white underside.

Common minkes usually have a white band in the middle of their flippers with 230-360 white or cream colored baleen plates on either side of their mouth which are a protective adaptation to aid in filter feeding. They also have 50-70 abdominal pleats along the throat.

Antarctic minkes have 200-300 baleen plates on either side of the mouth, with 22-38 abdominal pleats along the throat.

How cute are they?

Minke whales may be the smallest baleen whales, but that doesn't automatically make them cute. They're still much bigger than humans, but if you're fascinated by whales in general, you may find them cute. Otherwise, cute isn't exactly the term you'd use to describe minkes.  

How do they communicate?

This marine mammal produces clicks, thumps, grunts, ratchets, pulse trains, and 'boings' to communicate. Their low frequency sounds are being drowned by the ocean noise today.

How big is a minke whale?

When it comes to the minke whale size, females are usually bigger than males, measuring 9.1-10.7 m (30-35 ft) in length. Males measure 8.8-9.8 m (29-32 ft) long.

How fast can a minke whale swim?

Minke whales can cruise at speeds between 5 km per hour and 25 km per hour, with their maximum speed being around 40 km per hour.

How much does a minke whale weigh?

Minke whales typically weigh between 4-5 t (3.9–4.9 long tons, 4.4–5.5 short tons). The maximum weight of this species can go up to 10 t (9.8 long tons; 11 short tons).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Like other whale species, male minke whales are referred to as bull and female minke whales are referred to as cow. Female minke whales are typically larger than male minke whales.

What would you call a baby minke whale?

A baby minke whale is called a calf.

What do they eat?

Minke whales are often seen side lunging into their prey and taking in large amounts of water to meet the minke whale diet needs. Typically, minke whales feed on plankton, crustaceans, and small schooling fish such as anchovies, cod, dogfish, herring, capelin, salmon, coal fish, wolfish, eels, sand lance, mackerel, and saury.

Dwarf minke whales feed on krill and myctophid fish.

Minke whales can eat as much as 1170 t (22.1 kg/km2) in the ice-edge and 596 t (2.0 kg/km2) in offshore zones.

Are they aggressive?

Behaviors such as jaw gapes and claps as well as bubble blasts that have been described as aggressive behavior in other whale species are also seen in minkes. However, in minke whales, this behavior seems to be the naturally existing social behavior. Higher levels of aggression have not been observed in this species.  

Would they make a good pet?

No, minke whales are marine mammals and are meant to be in the sea waters. It is simply not possible to recreate the natural minke whale habitat to raise these baleen whales as pets.  

Did you know...

Predators of minke whales include killer whales, humans, and sharks.

Minke whales are sometimes called 'stinky minkes' because of their smelly spouting. This foul odor is a result of the dead and rotting fish that enters the bloodstream of the whales, giving them a fishy odor.  

Their brains have approximately 12.8 billion neocortical neurons and 98.2 billion neocortical glia.

How long can a minke whale hold its breath?

Minke whales usually come to the surface to breathe every two and a half minutes but they can hold their breath under water for over 12 minutes.

How many minke whales are left in the world?

Minke whales are not considered to be at risk. Minkes are considered to be secure on the global range. It is estimated at there are more than 180,000 common minke whales in the North Atlantic waters while the population of Antarctic minke whales is estimated to be 515,000 minkes as per the International Whaling Commission.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including fin whale, or bowhead whale.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our minke whale coloring pages.

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Written by Christian Mba

Bachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

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Christian MbaBachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba is an experienced blogger and content writer with over a decade of experience. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Nigeria and has a keen interest in Python programming. Along with his writing and blogging expertise, he is also an SEO specialist with more than six years of experience. Chris, as he is commonly known, has a passion for music and enjoys playing the piano.

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Fact-checked by Deeti Gupta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

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Deeti GuptaBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

A detail-oriented fact-checker with a research-oriented approach. Devika has a passion for creative writing, she has been published on multiple digital publishing platforms and editorials before joining the Kidadl team. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from St.Xavier's College, Deeti has won several accolades and writing competitions throughout her academic career.

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